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Police defend controversial dog ban

Police defend controversial dog ban

Updated: 2012-04-20 19:38


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HARBIN - Police in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, said Friday that the ban on large dogs was put enacted following increasing numbers of public complaints.

You Long, a police officer in charge of dog management in the city public security bureau, said the bureau received over 500 complaints annually concerning problems such as dog bites, and that number was still rising.

The bureau, together with the animal husbandry department, drafted the dog management regulation, which took effect on April 1. It aimed to better manage the city's dogs, whose population stands at around 100,000.

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Under the regulation, each household is restricted to keeping no more than one dog. Dogs taller than 50 cm and longer than 70 cm are outlawed, with 49 breeds, such as mastiff, golden retriever and samoyed, being categorized as too fierce or too large.

"We are trying to balance the rights of dog owners and those without dogs," You said.

The regulation requires owners to give away large dogs, or additional dogs by November, after when the police would confiscate any dogs that contravene size limits and seize additional dogs if any household has more than one. This policy has triggered huge controversy.

Sixty-year-old Cai Qingbin has had two golden retrievers for the past two years, and is reluctant to give them away to countryside relatives.

"I see them like my own babies," he said. "It feels awful to give them away."

Dog owners believe that dogs are the best friends and family companions. As such, they should not be expelled from the family just because of the size, or number. They also argue that gentle dog breeds, such as golden retrievers and samoyed, are harmless.

They have expressed sympathy to dog owners like Cai over the Internet, and some speculated that the police might kill seized dogs.

The public security bureau of Harbin clarified Wednesday at a press conference that they would keep the dogs in proper places, denying any plan to kill them.

Animal welfare advocates also voiced their disagreement on the ban.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia, a Hong Kong-based animal rights group, wrote an open letter to Mayor Song Xibin last Friday.

They suggested that the government should not ban pet dogs based on size. "The fierce breeds should be banned, but some large-sized breeds, such as the golden retriever, are very mild and human-friendly in character," the letter read. "It's important to remember that smaller dogs can also be vicious."

The group advised the government to exempt dogs that were currently with their owners, to avoid them being abandoned or sold illegally.

While dog lovers complained about the tough ban, some others also expressed understanding and support for the new regulation. They noted that dogs that roamed free and widespread dog excrement on the streets were problems that needed to be solved.

"The dogs themselves are harmless," said Harbin resident Wang Qiushi. "The real problem is when they are allowed to roam free."

Deng Yidan with the Animals Asia Foundation, also based in Hong Kong, appreciated government efforts on animal welfare protection, but warned that the foundation had received many public calls for help over the ban.

"We suggest the government promote dog raising in a responsible way, instead of enforcing tough regulations," Deng said.